We spent the day at the BlendEd Learning & Leadership Symposium in our home state of Washington (#PSESDBlendEd). Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) collaborated with Pacific Lutheran University to host a one day blended learning symposium for district leadership teams, teachers, and other school leaders. Participants left with strategies for implementing personalized and blended learning in a way that will reach across their district, different blended learning models, and essential blended learning conditions.

Here’s what makes Washington State education leaders excited about blended learning:

  • Student Power. The education enterprise has long been managed and driven by adults, it is exciting to transfer some of that responsibility to students. Blended learning provides an opportunity for students to take charge of their learning. Many folks found value in the Christensen focus on giving students “some control over control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of his or her learning.”
  • Teacher Power. Teachers can be more powerful in the blended learning environment – it is fun to see their renewed enthusiasm- “we have time to work with our students in the way that we intended when we first began teaching.”

  • EdTech Advancements. Advancements in technology allow for ease of connections between teachers and students (google hangouts, skype, etc) and it is easier for students to produce professional quality work products.

  • Getting Connected. Millions of educators are now connected. Technology allows for teachers from across the globe to interact and learn from each other. Combined with Common Core State Standards, new collaboration tools make it easy for teachers to share tips, resources, and strategies.

  • The Gift of the Technology Swap. Teachers have more time to spend with kids and differentiate instruction — we can create an environment where all kids are engaged and teachers have more time to work in small groups of students, providing extra guidance exactly when needed.

  • Language Learning. Blended learning can not only provides a new and effective strategy for our ELL students, but it also provides expanded world language opportunities for all students.

  • Digital Natives. Educators are excited about the opportunity to connect with students on their level. A student teacher from PLU made note of the fact that students today have grown up on digital technology and the internet. With blended learning “we’re moving into speaking in terms our kids are going to understand” she said. They’ll now be able to exchange dialogues and have important conversations around things important in school and beyond.”

  • It is time for BYOD. “You’re already BYOT [bring your own technology] but you won’t admit it.” Jill Hobson, Director of Instructional Technology at Forsyth County Schools refers to the fact that, despite policies to the contrary, most students bring their own technology to school. BYOD is possible and it’s happening. Leverage the resources you have and take a proactive approach to move forward.

  • Blended Learning in Action. These Washington Blended Learning Leaders are excited to see innovation in action. SOTA and SAMi were mentioned as Tacoma schools to visit. Bethel School District has emerged as local blended leader–watch their video about Blended Learning. (See 35 High Schools and 38 Elementary and Middle Schools worth visiting.)

The Time to Innovate is Now. Teachers and district leaders at BlendED are on the move. Some next steps discussed included

  • Blended PD for teachers;

  • Commit to a timeline for getting every kid connected;

  • Helping every student build a digital portfolio;

  • Encouraging more writing across the curriculum; and

  • Starting a flex academy to expand student options and create a site to observe  competency-based and blended learning.

Student Voice. Teachers and school leaders aren’t the only ones excited by the future of blended learning. Below are our favorite quotes from five Spanaway Lake High School Students, whose closing presentation gave insight into how blended learning enriches their educational experience.

“Through the blended learning program that we use, we have been able to use all sorts of applications that benefit our learning styles.” – Perry

“The reason our generation is associated with technology is because it’s what we know. My favorite part of blended learning is that if I don’t get something in class I can go home and watch videos or use applications to help me learn. Every day is not only a chance for students to learn, but for teachers to learn as well.” – Jessica

 “Imagine the subject that you struggled with the most in high school, I can guarantee that now, there is an app that would have helped you with that.” – Arlicia

“Technology is going to be an opportunity gap closer” – Jacob

“We have jobs created specifically for technology. The things that we’re doing in class-  using iPads to create assignment, perform research, compile into products, then present to our classmates, creates skills we’ll use countless amounts of time in college and in the workforce.” – Jesse

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